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Friday, October 29, 1999 Published at 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK


Railtrack challenges crash signal ban

Signal 109: Central to the Paddington crash inquiry

Railtrack is to appeal against a ruling banning it from using signal 109, the key signal in the Paddington rail tragedy.

London Train Crash
The company also wants to overturn two other improvement notices relating to rail signals passed at danger (Spads).

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - which issued the three enforcement notices - has expressed "disappointment" at the appeal.

But Railtrack said it "emphatically denied" the wording of the notices which it said accused it of "a breach of statutory provisions amounting to a criminal offence".

However, the company added that the work on signal 109 and other signals would be carried out.

The HSE stressed that the ban on signal 109, which was passed at red by the Thames train in the Paddington crash, would stay in place despite the appeal, which will be heard on 5 November.

The two improvement notices on Spads require work to be done by 6 November.

[ image: Gerald Corbett:
Gerald Corbett: "Safety work will be done"
But because of Railtrack's appeal, this date has been set aside.

Vic Coleman, the HSE's chief inspector of railways, said: "They have a right to appeal but I am disappointed because, for me, it is a bit of a distraction and it is a shame.

"They have appealed but they have indicated that they will comply with the notices and I find that odd."

Jonathan Bray, campaigns director for pressure group Save Our Railways, said he was "astonished" at the appeals.

He said: "Instead of contesting the matter, Railtrack should be making a commitment to re-invest its profits to deal with safety issues as soon as possible."

Extra safety

On 8 October - three days after the Paddington crash - the HSE told Railtrack to stop using signal 109 until effective means for stopping it being passed at danger were installed.

The company was told to install additional controls at the 22 signals most passed at danger in the UK, with the measures to be in place by 6 November.

The HSE also demanded a plan - to be outlined by 6 November - to reduce the risk posed by all remaining signals with a recent history of being repeatedly passed at danger.

Since Paddington station was reopened on 21 October, trains have been unable to use the stretch of track which includes signal 109, and have been routed via other nearby tracks.

Railtrack chief executive Gerald Corbett said: "All the work required to be carried out under the notices is being done. The appeals will not detract in any way from that effort."

[ image: Trains have used track near signal 109 since it was banned]
Trains have used track near signal 109 since it was banned

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